BMW R 18

BMW R 18 Dragster

The world-renowned Custom Bike Designer Roland Sands honours the new BMW R 18 with a straight-line conversion that perfectly showcases the iconic and impressive boxer engine.

The result: the R 18 Dragster. He and his team have let their creativity run wild around the two-cylinder big boxer and created a unique masterpiece.

Photos: BMW Motorrad

The personal past of Roland Sands served as a source of inspiration. "With an engine that is so visible in the center, I thought directly of muscle cars. My family has always had a penchant for fast driving and my father was a dragster racer. That's why I thought it made sense to reduce the motorcycle to the essentials and to remodel it so that it travels fast on a straight track," explains the designer.

The new BMW R 18: a sovereign cruiser with historical roots.

With the new R 18, BMW Motorrad presented the first production vehicle in the cruiser segment in April 2020. Like no BMW motorcycle before, it is technically and shape-language in the tradition of historic BMW motorcycles. It borrows both technically and visually from famous models such as the BMW R 5 and puts the essentials of the motorcycle back in the spotlight: puristic, no-frills technology and the boxer engine as the epicentre of driving pleasure.

The heart of the new BMW R 18 is a completely newly developed two-cylinder boxer engine, the "Big Boxer". Not only with its impressive appearance, but also from a technical point of view, it builds on the traditional air-cooled boxer engines, which have provided an inspiring driving experience since the beginning of BMW Motorrad production in 1923.

The technical design process of Roland Sands.

Roland Sands always starts with sketches on paper. This allows him to analyze the shapes and basics of the motorcycle and find out what is possible with the existing construction of the bike. "The real magic happens in the end when we bring the sketch to life," says Roland Sands.

The new R 18 offers a very conversion-friendly architecture like hardly any other motorcycle. Accordingly, it has an easily removable rear frame and an easy-to-remove paint set. This grants a high degree of freedom to convert the rear section of the new R 18 according to personal expectations with comparatively little effort and to design the paintwork according to your own wishes. "The electronics were definitely the hardest to process as we added nitrous oxide, removed the series exhaust and drastically changed the engine's inlet system. It was a small experiment, but we did it! The R 18 is impressive and very well finished, as you would expect from BMW Motorrad. From the very beginning, I was very much looking forward to starting this conversion!" emphasizes Roland.

In the case of the R 18 Dragster, the team around Roland Sands retained the standard steering axle of the R 18, removed the original rear of the motorcycle and turned it into a dragster bike. Roland Sands also decided to change the front and rear fenders to adapt them to the modified frame. The entire adjustment process took three and a half months. Afterwards, the team drove the motorcycle to the workshop for final assembly and, of course, for a day on a race track.

"Each motorcycle requires different sources of supply, special materials and parts, depending on the design. Even after the construction of more than 200 bikes, each new concept is a small learning process. We always want to understand the genre we are in. That's the key to keeping it authentic and functional," Roland explains.

In addition to the Custom Bike, Roland Sands created two different design collections of aluminium milling parts for the new R 18, which will be available from the market launch: "Machined" and "2-Tone-Black". The "Machined" and "2-Tone Black" sizes include front and rear wheels, for example. In addition, the range of these exclusive milling parts ranges from speedometer housings to handlebar clamps, handlebar lifts, handlebar handles, hand levers or mirrors to motor housing trims, tank caps, airbox covers and much more.

For the R 18 Dragster, Roland Sands used the "2 Tone-Black" design collection of milling parts for the individualization of hand levers, hero breasts, wheels, headlights and valve covers. The front section of the dragster was taken over by the R nineT. Both the seat and the exhaust are individually and completely new.

The R 18 Dragster in detail.

The frame has been completely redesigned, the rear suspension for drag racing has been fundamentally changed.

The front and rear fenders have been slightly modified using the series parts to maintain the classic R 18 silhouette.

The headlight was taken over by the R 18 and supplemented with the headlight panel from the Roland Sands design collection of aluminium milling parts of the R 18.

The series exhaust was replaced by a handmade double megaphone system made of stainless steel, using the end pieces of the design collection of aluminium milling parts.

The lids of the compensating containers are by Roland Sands Design.

The tank was taken over from the original production vehicle.

The color is a two-tone metallic blue with a classic white double-lengthing by Roland's longtime painter Chris Wood.

The fork was taken over by the BMW R nineT.

The front-wheel brake system comes from the BMW S 1000 RR.

The bench is completely new and is an RSD Costum-Seat from Saddlemen.

Roland Sands: The man behind the designs.

Photos: BMW Motorrad

Roland Sands basically grew up on a motorcycle. His father was a dragster racer who made custom-made motorcycles and parts. As a result, Roland grew up in the middle of workshops and motorcycles, and it wasn't long before he, too, rode off-road motorcycles and took them apart. In addition, he pursued his own racing career for more than 10 years.

Today Roland Sands is an internationally renowned custom bike and motorcycle clothing designer, with customers all over the world.

His team is best known for combining styles and creating new genres. "The combination of racing aesthetics and function, coupled with our custom style – that's probably what we're best known for. We want our conversions to perform even better than the series bikes in the end," explains the designer.

For Roland Sands, motorcycling is not just a job: "It's really hard to describe it in a few sentences. For me, motorcycling is the incredible feeling of becoming one with the machine. My motorcycle is my life. It's all for me - it's what I do.'